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Just How Much Has Changed for Launch? A Lot.

David Jagneaux Posted:
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Battling the 20-Person Group Boss

When a game has so much diversity on display with its classes, such as 16 battleframes in Firefall, large group instances always shine. At the end of our on-site event with the team, we were swept away as maxed out characters into a 20-person group instanced boss battle. The giant lava worm, Kanaloa, literally shook the earth as it growled beneath us.

I took command of CrunchyBeat, a pre-made character with a bevy of flame attacks at his disposal. Before entering the lair, the dev team stationed around me let us know a few key points. First of all, the lava in the room would be slowly rising as the battle progressed. Secondly, only the weak points on his back would yield any damage when attacked. Thirdly, most of his attacks could kill us extremely quickly. And finally, there were no respawns during the fight. This boss wasn’t a joke.

The lair was arranged with a giant pool in the center and a collection of rock outcroppings surrounding it. Some platforms raised close to the ceiling around the outsides, while others hung precariously over the lava itself.  Kanaloa had only a handful of attacks, but they were all extremely deadly. His favorite two were spitting giant fireballs/rock at players – something almost assuredly could one-shot anybody, and also erupting a giant stream of fire from his mouth. Thankfully rock walls were scattered sparingly that offered shelter from each of these attacks, that is, if you were quick enough to hide before getting yourself killed.

Our first encounter went disastrously as he wiped our entire party before losing even half of his life bar that stretched the length of our screens. After reviving and re-entering the instance, our resolve strengthened. This time, we put up one hell of a fight. As I hopped from platform to platform, pausing to launch explosions of my own at its exposed back, it seemed like we would be victorious. At one point, I even got the fanfare of a Red 5 Brand Manager as I revived him from the very depths of lava from which we struggled to avoid.

Alas, despite our struggle, the last member of our party fell with Kanaloa left at a mere 8%. We yearned to try taking him on once again, but our taxis to the airport were growing anxious outside so we had to leave. The team assures that there are a total of 3 large-scale boss encounters such as this one, but one of them is part of the campaign. The tactics involved reminded me of bosses from the Zelda games, which is far from a bad comparison to draw. I could easily see myself playing this one several times over, if not just for the entertainment alone. If the team can deliver more great end-game PvE challenges like this one, Firefall could be worth the wait indeed.

The Wild West of Open World PvP

PvP is such a hard concept to manage for an MMO and especially for a game like Firefall. Not only does Red 5 have to create battleframes that are fun to play and balanced with the PvE content in the game, but ones that are also balanced against one another in the PvP parts of the game. Channeling the likes of Tribes, Unreal Tournament, and Planetside 2, the PvP in Firefall is on track to being something quite special.

The giant continent known as Broken Peninsula, is roughly around the same size as each of the PvE areas. The area is peppered with resource bases that must be taken over and controlled in a cross-faction tug-of-war for resource collection. The Chosen take over bases as their own and then different player factions can jump in to vie for glory as well. The system works similarly to most other open world PvP games, such as Guild Wars 2 and Planetside 2, with its own twists.

For one thing, the bases do not offer constant resources to the groups that control them. Instead, as resources are collected at the bases, they feed into a system that is on a timer. Once that timer hits the 15 minute mark, the entire zone is notified. This creates a mad-dash to overthrow and take control of a base before it allocates it resources, which creates an exhilarating roller coaster of battles throughout the region.

The lore friendly explanation for the region is that the entire area is unclaimed territory, similar to the Wild West. By instituting a “law of the gun” mentality, various corporations are in a constant struggle to control resource bases. In addition to the player battles, dynamic content from the PvE continents will bleed over into the PvP zone as well, adding additional elements of unpredictability. By being able to level up in PvP, players could very well spend the large majority of their time gunning down other players.

In the future, the team hopes to add features like being able to manually fly your respawn dropship, rather than waiting for it to circle the map until you’re near your destination, and even the ability to instate different game modes. Events like bounty hunts on specific players would add an additional element to the already deep open world gameplay, but it’s hard to tell how those would pan out.

Final Thoughts Heading into Launch

There is no doubt that Firefall at launch will be a significantly better game than it was even just a year ago. The original vision for the game was conceived all the way back in 2006 when development first began and we are now in a much different game industry. The likes of Planetside 2, Defiance, Destiny, or even Borderlands didn’t exist at the time. As a result of enduring such an elongated development cycle, Firefall has had to evolve as it develops to meet the needs and expectations of an immensely demanding playerbase. The sights are set high and there is still plenty of room for improvement, but after spending some time with the game and getting a better idea of their vision, it’s hard not to feel hopeful for the future of the world’s next MMO shooter.

Tomorrow, I’ll provide more backstory on the history of the company and how James Macauley has taken the game to where it is today with details from my in-depth 20-minute interview.

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David Jagneaux

David Jagneaux / David is a freelance writer and full-time nerd. He loves to play, write about, talk about and think about all things gaming. It's dangerous to go alone, so follow him on Twitter at @David_Jagneaux